McMaster Kicks Bannon Ally Off National Security Council After Mattis Complained

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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After complaints from Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster fired Middle East adviser Derek Harvey, who apparently has close ties to White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

McMaster officially removed Harvey from the National Security Council (NSC) on Thursday morning, The Weekly Standard reports.

Harvey, who served as senior director for the Middle East and is a retired Army colonel, was originally brought into the NSC by former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn.

“General McMaster greatly appreciates Derek Harvey’s service to his country as a career Army officer, where he served his country bravely in the field and played a crucial role in the successful surge in Iraq, and also for his service on Capitol Hill and in the Trump administration,” NSC spokesman Michael Anton said in a statement. “The administration is working with Colonel Harvey to identify positions in which his background and expertise can be best utilized.”

Two sources told The Weekly Standard that Harvey is viewed as too tight with Bannon. And yet, Harvey has positions that don’t quite square up with Bannon’s normal non-interventionist approach to foreign policy. For example, Harvey was a driving force behind the idea that President Donald Trump should order a strike against Syria. However, Bloomberg noted in May that Harvey had come up with a list of Obama administration holdovers on the NSC who were suspected of leaking to the press. Both Bannon and Trump pushed McMaster to fire the holdovers on the list, but McMaster ignored the pressure.

McMaster was reportedly promised the authority to restructure the NSC following Flynn’s demise in February, though a senior White House official told Foreign Policy in March that a major purge was not planned. In fact, that same official said that advisers working on Middle East issues will keep their positions in the immediate future.

McMaster, however, did manage to remove K. T. McFarland, who served as deputy national security adviser. He also tried to take out senior director for intelligence Ezra Cohen-Watnick, but was unsuccessful. When he still served as national security adviser, Flynn placed both McFarland and Cohen-Watnick on the NSC.

A White House official told The Daily Caller News Foundation that Harvey’s deputies, Joel Rayburn and Michael Bell, still work for the NSC.

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